Word Trends: Hobgoblin, Unsullied, Schlimazel

Some words, such as affectmetaphor, and irony, hold relatively steady in lookups at Dictionary.com regardless of what’s happening in pop culture, politics, or social media. Other words shift wildly in rank and volume, often as a ripple effect of a news item or event that has piqued people’s curiosity—we call those trending words. Here are few notable trending words from the week of April 9–15.

Thursday, April 9
listeria
armistice

Listeria was trending on Thursday as a result of a recall of 30,000 cases of Sabra hummus due to contamination with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. In efforts to get to the bottom of the listeria hysteria, people were also looking up the term hummus. Thursday marked the 150th anniversary of the the day that General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House in 1865, an event which marked the end of the Civil War. This anniversary may have contributed to the surge of interest in the word armistice, defined as “a suspension of hostilities by agreement of the warring parties; truce.”

Friday, April 10
sibling
anodyne

Sibling saw a spike in interest on National Siblings Day, along with anodyne, which can refer to a medicine that allays pain, but is often used in a pejorative sense to describe something that is uninteresting or bland. We’re not sure what caused this term to spike, though it’s clear this word was top-of-mind for many people this week. A few days later, Christopher Eccleston, the actor who played The Doctor in the first season of the rebooted Dr. Who, used this term in a criticism of the entertainment industry and British culture in an interview with Radio Times magazine: “You can’t blame Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch and others taking their opportunities but it will lead to a milky, anodyne culture.”

Saturday, April 11
hobgoblin

On Saturday, in a press conference after the Summit of the America’s, Obama told reporters “consistency is the hobgoblin of narrow minds.” The comment was pointed at critics of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran’s nuclear program, and calls on a passage from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance”: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has nothing to do.” Consequently, hobgoblin, defined as “something causing superstitious fear” or “a mischievous goblin,” was trending in our lookups.

Sunday, April 12
unsullied
impeach

The season premiere of Game of Thrones had people looking up unsullied on Sunday, due to a scene in which one of the Unsullied is murdered. Outside of the Game of Thrones universe, unsullied means “untarnished” or “virginal; pure.” Impeach also spiked in lookups on Sunday; approximately 275,000 protesters marched in Sao Paulo on this day calling for the impeachment of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff. Impeach means “to accuse a public official before an appropriate tribunal of misconduct in office.”

Wednesday, April 15
schlimazel/schlemazel
quintuplets

Our Word of the Day on April 15 was the Yiddish term schlemiel, which caused Dictionary.com users to look up schlimazel, a Yiddish term meaning “an inept, bungling person who suffers from unremitting bad luck.” Beyond the Yiddish-speaking world, this pairing might be popular thanks to the ever-catchy Laverne & Shirley theme song. People were also spelling it schlemozel, schlemasel, and schlamazel. Quintuplets was also trending on Wednesday, likely because of the birth the previous week of the first all-girl quintuplets born in the US. Dictoinary.com defines quintuplets as “five children or offspring born of one pregnancy.”

Did you look up any of these terms? Let us know in the comments!

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